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The car-hire experience: Trouble on the Tibetan plateau

posted Jun 28, 2013, 5:37 PM by The Tibetan Political Review
Excerpt from from the full article published in The Economist: 

"[On the] Tibetan plateau, China’s fast-growing, car-loving middle class finds its dream: vast open spaces, roads that wind up mountains and across yak-speckled grasslands to monasteries whose red-robed monks seem to live a world away from the travails of coastal mega-cities. I wrote about this Tibet-driving fantasy in December after taking to the wheel along the 1,800km (1,100-mile) middle-class trail from Beijing to Xining, the capital of Qinghai province, on the plateau’s edge. The recent rapid growth of a car-hire industry is helping to fuel such dreams. But let the renter beware.

After having navigated that cross-China route without incident, I finished my most recent experience less well: on a car-trailer, after a freak of nature struck at 2,400 metres (7,900 feet) above sea level, next to a Tibetan monastery. It put the Xining branch of China Auto Rental, whose acronym goes without saying, to a tough test at a time when the company is emerging as a leader in the country’s infant self-drive rental business. In April Hertz, a global car-hire firm, took a 20% stake in CAR.

Middle-class Chinese have a lot to be grateful for in the growth of such companies. This one has at last made it possible to do what travelers in many other parts of the world take for granted: hire a self-drive car and drop it off in a different place. New vistas of tourism have suddenly opened up. (CAR, eager to expand market share, tries to get them young: “Grow up quickly!” says an advertising poster offering car hire to anyone over 18 who has a licence.)"

The full Economist article is available here

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